Companies House is highly regarded and trusted and anyone administering a company is used to dealing with Companies House. Also, Companies House do issue fines to companies. So, company administrators pay close attention to any communications from Companies House.
For these reasons, many scammers target business people, by pretending to be from Companies House.
1. Bogus Emails
Fraudsters send out malware infected emails claiming to be from Companies House in the hope that businesses will download the attached file and hence allow the malware to infect their systems.
The emails often originate from domain names closely resembling Companies House, such as: @companieshouse.me.uk; @companies-house.me.uk; @companieshouses.com; @companieshouses.co.uk
Some of the spoofed emails cleverly state they are “auto generated” and imply your company is under investigation after a new complaint has been submitted on Companies House’s WebFiling service.
These types of emails can be quite alarming, but if you receive one, do not download the attachment which contains a virus, delete it and report it to Companies House.
The Most Common Email Scams
a. Late Filing Penalty Payment
The email claims you owe some random amount of money for late filing and need to pay immediately or risk your company being struck off. Check your account online if you are in any doubt as to whether you do owe anything (do not click on links in the scammers email message).
b. Bogus eReminder Request
Companies House use eReminders to warn company administrators of upcoming dates for action. Scammers copy these emails and try to get you to click a link which goes to a fake website with a login required and hence you will be giving them your login details.
c. Bogus Requests to Verify Your Companies House Password
Similar to bogus eReminder emails, these provides a link to a fake website designed to look like Companies House and gather your password. If you have given away your password, inform Companies House and go online to change your password immediately.
A request for a password reset for our online filing service will have an address that starts: ewf.companieshouse.gov.uk. Anything else is fake.
d. Bogus Prosecuting Solicitors Letter
These emails claim there is a problem with your company registration or documents or that a complaint has been made. Contact Companies House if you receive such emails
e. Fake Companies House Invoice
In the UK, the deadlines for tax returns and payments varies according to the nature of your business. Corporation Tax and VAT returns and payment dates - and Companies House returns - depend on dates of incorporation and registration. PAYE and NI return and payment dates are also specific to your business. For Self-Assessment (in the case of sole traders and partnerships), the date for returns is January 31st, and payments on account January 31st and July 31st.
Fraudulent emails can be received at any time of the year, but it is during the periods leading up to these dates that they become more prevalent as many businesses are thinking about their tax affairs.
2. Telephone Scams
The most common of theses scams is to be contacted asking for payment of a late filing penalty over the telephone. Sometimes, the caller says they’ll accept a payment of £5 by credit or debit to place a hold on any further action being taken.
Companies House won’t contact you for immediate payment of a late filing penalty or request payment of a nominal fee to place a hold on any recovery action.
Payment plans are set up with the agreement of the manager dealing with your late filing penalty query. Companies House do not cold call to take payment.
3. Protecting your business
Beware of emails which:
· Have a sender’s email address which is different from Companies House or other trusted organisation’s website address.
· Are sent from a completely different address or a free webmail address.
· Do not use your proper name, but a non-specific greeting such as “Dear customer”, "Dear Business Owner", “Dear Taxpayer” or no greeting at all.
· Incorporate a sense of urgency; for example the threat that unless you act immediately your account may be closed or you may miss a payment or refund claim deadline.
· Request confidential business or employee information such as username, password or bank details.
- Be cautious with emails that contain attachments. If in any doubt, do not click on the attachment and delete the email, do not respond and do not forward it unless to report it to the authentic organisation.
- Be on the lookout for copycat websites, which may well charge a high fee for a service which would be free, or at lower cost, from the official government site. These sites will cost your business unnecessary money and possibly not even deliver any service at all, despite being featured prominently on Google and other search engines.
4. The PROOF Scheme
Companies House have a scheme called PROOF whereby you can decide that only online forms will be accepted.
This service lets you protect your company from unauthorised changes to your records. It prevents the filing of certain paper forms, including:
· changes to your registered office address
· changes to your officers (appointments, resignations or personal details)
· your annual return
For more information, go to http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/business/91-companies-house-proof-scheme or the Companies House website at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house
To report a fraud and cyber-crime and receive a police crime reference number, call Companies House on 0300 123 2040 or use the online fraud reporting tool.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.